Professional development - make the most of it!

By Dave Gibbs posted 15 days ago


High quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) leads to improved pedagogy and subject knowledge, which has the biggest influence on student outcomes and progression leading to improved life chances. Not exactly a shocking or surprising statement. However, Learning Policy Institute research (‘Effective Teacher Professional Development’, 2017) shows that, all too often, “professional development initiatives appear ineffective in supporting changes in teacher practices and student learning”.  

As someone who leads on professional development programmes, you might wonder why I am telling you this. It’s because we all want teacher and technician CPD to be a good investment of time, and to benefit young people. This doesn’t happen on its own, so read on! 

Increasing the classroom impact of professional development  

At STEM Learning we strive to provide valuable professional development experiences. Informed by rigorous evidence such as the EEF’s ‘Effective professional development’ guidance report from 2021, and the well-established principles of the DfE’s standards for CPD (2016), we adhere to the highest standards in development and leadership of CPD including:  

  • Designing effective course content and CPD activities, modelling effective strategies  

  • Using credible sources, and supporting a critical assessment of them 

  • Supporting our community of Professional Development Leaders, most of whom are active teachers, to become experts in teacher CPD through a structured career development programme  

It takes place in a safe environment where you can try things out, discuss challenges and share ideas, learning from the wealth of knowledge and experience around you. So, what can you do to ensure that the potential benefits of CPD are fully realised? 


Think about the things you want to improve and choose the CPD most likely to support that improvement. Read beyond the title to the intended learning objectives – do they match what you need? Keep your school or college developmental priorities in mind. The backing of senior leadership creates a strong movement for change, and you’ll get much further swimming with the current.

Be part of the conversation with leaders, ensuring they understand your reasons for seeking professional development.  


Reflect on professional learning activities as you encounter them, considering your own school context. Not everything will work for every class, all of the time, so be choosy about what you plan to implement. Try a ‘pre-mortem’ – what could happen that might derail your implementation?

Even if Benjamin Franklin never actually said ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’, a well-considered plan remains key to success. Plan how to assess and evaluate the impact you’re looking to make. Aim for early, quick wins to build momentum - evidence of success can provide a boost for you, and others who can support you.   

Be fully involved in the CPD. Rehearse interventions in this safe space while you can, and practice back in school, bringing your thoughts and reflections back. If you can bring a colleague to the CPD, it’ll help you maintain impetus when you’re back in school.   

Prioritise what you’ll take away to implement in the classroom. We aim for CPD to take place in a positive environment, keeping the ‘noise’ at bay for a while. 

Back in the classroom  

Gather the resources you’ll need ahead of time, allowing you to focus on the intervention.   

Adapt what you’ve learned to the needs of your workplace – while keeping hold of the important principles that underpin the CPD.   

If planned interventions work, or if they don’t, think about the reasons why – and if more objectivity is required, ask someone else to observe and feedback.   

Learn, iterate, and don’t give up. If the evidence mounts that something just isn’t right for you, in your setting, that’s a positive outcome. It means you won’t waste any more time on it – freeing you up to try an alternative approach.   

Share successes with colleagues - especially line managers and CPD coordinators. The whole school is investing in your professional development; showing the benefits can help you maintain momentum and secure more support for your developmental goals.   

Embed attendance at courses in a rich diet of professional learning – reading, networking, inviting visitors to the classroom, planning collaboratively, observing others, there are many ways to reach your goals, so make them work around your commitments. Be sure to access support from your own school, college or trust – coaching, special interest groups, subject specialists and NPQs are just a few of the things you might have access to.   

Remember – you’re definitely not alone! Professional development leaders, fellow teachers and other subject experts are waiting in the STEM Community to support you as you embed your learning.   

So don’t allow CPD to be a waste of time, with little more to show than a good lunch. Young people deserve a world class STEM education, and we’re here to help you make it happen.  

STEM Learning now has a wider and more flexible range of CPD than ever before which will transform your teaching. Find the right course for you below!